It’s Been a While…

Some of you may have noticed I haven’t posted since the new year. Some of you may not have noticed. Either way, here’s why:

My final semester of college began with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), where I participated in an intense workshop series called Institute for Theater Journalism and Advocacy (ITJA). With the program, I saw 7 plays at the festival and wrote reviews on each, 2 of which were workshopped by professional theater critic Andy Propst.

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Set for “Moon Over Buffalo” at KCACTF

I took what I learned from ITJA and applied it to my English senior seminar class that semester. I took 2 extra classes, French II and elementary jazz dance, than I needed to graduate because they interested and challenged me. Although I’ve been dancing since I was 2, that jazz class brought me back to the basics that I don’t often think about and taught me jazz dance history. I also took Astronomy II as my physics elective to broaden my knowledge of the universe because stargazing is one of my favorite pastimes.

In my collaborative theatre class, I had the opportunity to film a short comedic project I wrote about problems on ESU’S campus. Watch below:

On top of classes on weekdays, my extracurriculars had me booked almost every weekend. I worked on theater productions, danced in the Cabaret, helped organize the International Festival, volunteered with Rotaract and met all requirements as a brother of Phi Sigma Pi, including a volleyball tournament in Maryland!

 

I am no longer set to serve in the Peace Corps, so I spent a lot of the semester applying for flight attendant jobs to live my dream of flying and traveling.

I spent spring break visiting friends from study abroad in England and Scotland. I even saw some panda bears, my favorite animal, for the first time!

After graduation early May, I got a paid eight week internship at the “Scranton Times,” where I am currently writing newspaper articles. I also work at McDonald’s on the weekend for extra cash to save up for my big move to NYC mid-September. More on that later…

In the meantime, here are some photos from my most recent NYC visit. I saw Sweeney Todd and enjoyed pre-show pie and mash by Obama’s White House pastry chef!

I’ve been quite busy recently, if I say so myself, but I have a lot more to look forward to! Stay tuned.

What are you looking forward to this summer?

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2017 Roundup

The last few months of 2017 were exciting, but I cannot say they were as exciting as the first few weeks. I celebrated the beginning of 2017 in Brussels, Belgium and visited France, Greece and Germany before my final week in England for study abroad.

Even though the end of last year could not compare to the beginning, here are some highlights of the last two months:

  • Phi Sigma Pi Philly Cup soccer tournament: I competed in a soccer tournament with a few of my Phi Sigma Pi bros from ESU and other universities, mostly from the east coast. My team came in third place out of about 20 teams. I was tired, but it was worth the experience. On the final day, we even got to party on a yacht!
  • “The Laramie Project”: ESU’s Stage II theater club performed “The Laramie Project.” The entire production was put together by my fellow students. I was on the props team and the PR team. The impact of this show was even brought to the streets, when a Christian hate group protested on ESU’s campus. Theater students involved in the production counter-protested by bringing the prop angel wings used in the show to block out the hate group. This action mirrored a scene from the play, which is all based on actual events and interviews from residents of Laramie, Wyo.
  • Phi Sigma Pi induction: We inducted 11 new members into ESU’s chapter of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity. I am excited to see what Tau class brings to the fraternity.
  • Alpha Psi Omega induction: I was inducted into ESU’s chapter of the National Theatre Honor Society this past semester.

 

  • Peace Corps acceptance: I have been accepted into the Peace Corps to serve in Togo, West Africa after graduation! I will be a Food Security Educator during my two years of service. I am currently waiting to be legally and medically cleared before it is official. I also have to learn to speak French and ride a mountain bike. These will be the most challenging parts of pre-service, but I am confident I can learn them.

This year, although it is only a few days into 2018, I reunited with my study abroad flatmate Dara. We spent the day in New York City and saw Miss Saigon on Broadway!

I have one more trip to the UK to visit friends I made during my study abroad before I begin my Peace Corps service. I am excited, but it is also bittersweet because I will only be in the UK for one week.

Next week, I will be attending the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I will be participating in the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy during the festival, where I also hope to take part in performing arts workshops.

Salem and “The Crucible”

As part of the theatre department at East Stroudsburg University, I am performing in “The Crucible” this week. There are two more chances to see the show: tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m. Our production invites audiences to connect the 1692 Salem witch hunt with modern day “witch hunts” involving cults and scapegoating.

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Act II, Scene ii: “Girls Gone Wild”

Throughout the show, we incorporate projections and tableaux to emphasize themes in the play and reality. I am part of the production’s dramaturgy team, so I researched media to include in the projections. I also choreographed the opening ritual for our production.

Along with dramaturgy and choreography, I also play the role of Ruth Putnam. Ruth is one of the young “afflicted” girls who accuses people of witchcraft to end land disputes for her family.

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My dramaturgy lobby display posters

In history, Ruth’s name was actually Ann Putnam, Jr. Along with Abigail Williams, Ann Jr. accused the most people of witchcraft throughout the Salem witch hysteria.

As part of our cast and crew’s research, we took a weekend trip to Salem, Mass last month. Driving in, we felt a mysterious chill and experienced a mist in the air unlike any other. We explored both historic Salem town, now Salem, and Salem village, now Danvers. We went on the Black Cat Salem tour, which was highly informative, and our guide, Dan, tailored the tour to “The Crucible.”

I also went to the Salem Witch Museum, and other members of our group visited Salem Dungeons and other museums.

During the trip, I encountered many witch-y tourist spots, visited the harbor and saw a comedy improv show while on a night out in Boston.

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Enjoying a drink before the comedy improv in Boston

My experience with “The Crucible” has opened my mind more than any other show I have worked on so far. Have you had a similar experience? Share it in the comments, I would love to hear about it!

Next up: Halloween!

Sweden: Summer 2017

I took a comparative media class in Lund, Sweden for two weeks in July, and explored Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Lund Cathedral and Swedish + Scandinavian flags
The class was led by an East Stroudsburg University professor, and the majority of students I traveled there with attend ESU. In the comparative media class, we discussed differences between media in nine countries, including our own observations from Sweden and the States. We also took excursions to two media companies, a viking town and Kronberg Castle in Helsingor, where Hamlet is based.

Viking town

I attended class every weekday morning from 9 a.m. until around noon, explored southern Sweden in the afternoons and studied for the next classes at night. I enjoyed the nightlife with my classmates on weekends, as well as visiting Copenhagen, Denmark and reuniting with Jacqueline, my flatmate from my England study abroad, in Germany.

Art in Malmö, a park in Lund and a cafe in Ystad
I studied on Lund University’s campus in Skåne, Sweden. Skåne is the southern part of the country from Helsingor to Malmö, which is connected to Copenhagen, Denmark by the Øresund Bridge. Besides Lund, I visited Malmö, Ystad and Stockholm in Sweden, along with the Danish cities of Helsingor, by ferry, and Copenhagen.

Boat and a bridge pillar in Stockholm

Lund and Malmö were the prettiest and had the most personality of the cities I visited in Sweden, while Copenhagen was the most fun and interesting for me. I rode a virtual reality roller coaster at Tivoli Gardens, explored Rosenberg Castle, went out in the Meatpacking District, climbed the Round Tower, witnessed breathtaking church interiors, walked through Freetown Christiana and strolled along the famous Nyhavn canal district.

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Changing of the guard in Copenhagen, view from atop the Round Tower, Danish flags and Rosenberg Castle

During the final weekend of my trip, I visited Jacqueline in Germany. I had not originally planned on visiting her until on the flight into Copenhagen. I was watching the flight’s map as we were landing and could see Frankfurt relatively close to Copenhagen, and wondered “doesn’t Jacqueline live near Frankfurt…” I immediately messaged her on landing and asked what the closest airport to her is. She said Cologne, I found a cheap last minute RyanAir flight and asked if I could visit for a weekend.

Dom Cathedral
While in Germany, Jacqueline introduced me to radler, a German style of beer with sprite. I had beer with lemonade last time I visited Germany, but this was my first one with sprite. I am not a big beer drinker, but I enjoy radler!

Line on the cable car and me and Line at Panorama
We climbed the Dom Cathedral, visited a Lindt chocolate factory, saw a Panoramic view of the city and rode a cable car from one side of Cologne to another!

Next up: Gishwhes 2017, Senior year updates and Salem, MA!

Experiencing Reverse Culture Shock

One of the reasons that I have not posted in a while is because I’m dealing with reverse culture shock.

What is reverse culture shock? And how is it different from culture shock?

Reverse culture shock is when you experience a sense of disorientation and even sadness or depression when returning to your home country after an extended period of being away. Whereas culture shock is a feeling of homesickness when you first move away from home to a place with a different culture than what you are used to. You do not need to experience culture shock to experience reverse culture shock, and vice versa.

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View from Sunderland’s City Campus on my first day in England.

When I studied abroad in England, I did not experience culture shock. Instead, I was excited to embrace a new culture and jumped right into it. And I think that’s what made my reverse culture shock hit so hard.

I have nothing tying me down in Pennsylvania, where I have been stuck my entire life besides the four months I spent abroad and when I have taken on short vacations to other states. I am not really close with my family, who basically all live within 20 minutes of each other, and my only friends in the state are those at university. My best friend from high school lives in Florida now and only visits a few weeks throughout the year, and all my friends from study abroad live in either different states or different countries.

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Dara, the first friend I made in England, and me with a snowdog.

I made friends my first day in Sunderland, which was surprising because it took me a few months to make the friends I have at East Stroudsburg. Yet, I became closer with my study abroad friends in those short four months than I have with my university friends that I have had for almost three years.

Making these friends, along with all the memories we created together, and seeing how close we became, made it tough to leave them and come back to a place where I have close friends, but not as close as I need them to be.

I still keep in touch with my British friends, Sunderland Dance Squad, my flatmates and other people I met during my travels. And this has helped me transition back to life in the States, but it also makes me sad because we are so far away now.

I have been back in the States for a little over two months now and I am dealing with being back better than last month. But, it is still difficult. Especially because I can no longer call the house I grew up in or ESU “home” without getting a weird feeling because these places have never felt like home as much as England or Scotland (for the five days I spent there) has. And I honestly think it is because of the friends I have made and the welcoming atmosphere of the people and their culture.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

I know I will not be able to live in Pa. much longer and feel happy. I am not even sure if I can live in America, even though I have not seen enough of this country to know if there are other cities here that will make me feel as welcome as the UK.

I know I am young, but I am also going to graduate university next year. I do not want to be stuck here for longer than I need to. So, this summer I am hoping to get my driver’s license and a car, which will make me even more broke than I am now. If it was up to me, I would have had my license five years ago because not being able to drive in this country has only made me feel more stuck, but I have had difficult times trying to find someone to teach me who will keep their word.

Once I can drive, I want to apply for a better job so I can afford car insurance and eventually to move out. Right now my choice in jobs is limited because I have to rely on other people to get me there, and can only work when their schedules are free to take me to work.

Hopefully everything works out. I am trying not to stress so much about being broke right now because I know I will be even more broke in a few months.

I promise my next post will have a happier note than this one! I will be talking about camping!

Meanwhile, if anyone has any culture shock or reverse culture shock tips, please share!

8 Things I Learned about America while I wasn’t Living There

While studying abroad in England, I learned a lot about English culture. But, by learning about another culture, I realized I was also learning about my own. Based on this post, here is what I learned about America:

  1. Food inferiority: The first time I ordered cheesy “chips” in England, I expected the typical, synthetic nacho cheese you get with fries in the States. Fortunately, I was wrong. The cheese was real! On top of this surprise, once I ordered, the takeaway worker fried the chips right then instead of having them pre-fried and cold by the time I got served, like at most American take out restaurants. I also acquired a taste for garlic sauce, which goes great with cheesy chips… Although one of my British friends swears otherwise. Unfortunately, garlic sauce is hard to find past Northern England. I could barely find it in London, nevermind America.
  2. Intersections vs roundabouts: One of the first differences I noticed about the roads in England, besides driving on the opposite side, was the abundance of roundabouts and unnecessary winding crosswalks. At first I did not understand why they barely have any intersections in England, until one of my British classmates explained how little land there is in Europe compared to America, and that roundabouts save more space than intersections. I still do not understand why a lot of the crosswalks wind through traffic, though. I think they would be much easier to maneuver if they were straight. But maybe because they rely so much on roundabouts in Europe, they do not understand the practicality of a straight crosswalk.
  3. Drinking culture: First, you are legal to drink at 18 in most of Europe and 21 in America. Second, you are supposed to get carded if you look under 25 in most of Europe and under approximately 40 in America. Third, when buying alcohol or entering a club, people are a lot more relaxed about drinking than in America. Fourth, the British party harder than any American I have ever seen.
  4. Money: Besides the obvious currency difference that American money is plain old green compared to the colorful British Pound or Euro notes, I had not realized another major difference: Americans name their coins. Even after living my life calling coins by “penny,” “dime,” “nickle” and “quarter,” I never noticed we gave them specific names, whereas British coins are all “pence” and Euro coins are all “cents” no matter the amount, until I met an English student who studied abroad in America. He told me the hardest adjustment for him was trying to remember which coin was called what. Also, British money has eight coins, while American money only has four. This is because British one and two pounds are coins, not notes, and then their pence run in one, two, five, 10, 20, and 50 coins. As useless as Americans may find the penny, the two pence coin feels even more useless to the British.sheep-1
  5. Sheep: So many sheep in Britain. On the motorway, I have passed fields and fields of sheep. The sheep were my first surprise when I arrived in England. Even landing in the country, I saw white dots on fields from the air and I had no clue what they were until I took the bus to my university. My fellow American students and I were in awe over the sheep, which confused many of our British friends until we told them we do not have that many sheep where we are from in America.
  6. Pedestrian streets: I love pedestrian areas! I think they encourage healthier living by requiring people to walk in certain areas. When I arrived back in the States, I went shopping with my mom, and she parked in one lot. Then, when we were on our way to get food after, she went to get back in the car while I wanted to walk to the restaurant, which was right across the street. I tried to convince her to walk, but she was too stubborn to change her way of life because she is so used to driving everywhere, even when it is right across the street.20161003_111757
  7. Sales tax: The first time I went to Poundland, which sells everything for a pound, I expected to pay more than a pound. Like how we pay more than a dollar at the dollar stores because of sales tax. I received another pleasant surprise when the total was a whole number. I later learned this is because sales tax is already worked into the sales price before you buy something, and not added as extra at the register.
  8. The alphabet: Ok, so I knew Z is pronounced “zed” in Europe, but what I was not prepared for was H being pronounced “haych.” Growing up in America, whenever a child said “haich,” they were scolded and told to stop pronouncing the letter “aych” the wrong way. Little did those kindergarten teachers know, almost everywhere else pronounces H “the wrong way.”

Any other differences I missed?

P.S. I’m a finalist in the ISEP Study Abroad photo contest! Like/share my photo here to help me win fan favorite! Spread the word to friends and family, too! Voting ends 23 February.

Thanks a lot!

Up next: my experience with reverse culture shock and other updates.